MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins were dealt a major blow to their rotation on Tuesday, when projected Opening Day starter Ervin Santana underwent surgery on his right middle finger. He is expected to be out 10-12 weeks.
With Santana out until possibly May, the Twins could look to sign two starters late this offseason to add to a rotation that doesn't have much depth beyond Santana, Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. The injury also affects Santana's contract status, because his $14 million club option would've been guaranteed to vest if he reached 200 innings this season, but now it's unlikely.
The Twins announced that Santana has dealt with discomfort in his middle finger on his throwing hand in the past and underwent an MRI exam and X-rays after the season that showed there was no damage to his tendon. He received an injection at that point, but after throwing last week in advance of Spring Training, he felt discomfort again and saw Dr. Charles Melone in New York. He recommended the surgery and performed it Tuesday. The surgery is officially a capsular release/debridement procedure to his MCP joint.
The Twins explained that Santana didn't suffer the injury on one pitch during the season or offseason.
"The injury is a result of repeated cumulative stress from pitching," the Twins said in a statement, "not one acute event, and did not present again until this past week."
Without Santana, the Twins otherwise could have to count on youngsters early in the season such as Adalberto Mejia, Aaron Slegers, Fernando Romero or Stephen Gonsalves. Phil Hughes is coming off a second surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome but is expected to be ready for Spring Training, while Trevor May isn't expected to be ready to return from Tommy John surgery until May. Tyler Duffey will also be stretched out to start to add depth.
But Santana was undoubtedly Minnesota's ace last season, going 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 211 1/3 innings en route to being named an All-Star and starting the American League Wild Card Game. He's posted a combined 3.32 ERA over 392 2/3 innings over the past two seasons.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Last year's solid surface stats aside (16 wins, 3.28 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), Santana gave wise fantasy owners some pause due to his less-encouraging peripherals (4.46 FIP, .245 BABIP). The right-hander can fall to the final rounds of shallow-league drafts as a result of his surgery, but he remains an intriguing DL-stash option given his strong two-year track record (3.32 ERA from 2016-17) and ability to eat innings when healthy.